David A. Ek
May 19, 1994
William Hampton Smith and his wife Ada built a house in 1872 near the location of the original Fort Clatsop. The house was built adjacent to a half buried rotten log which the Smith's claimed, or rather thought, was a remnant of the original Fort Clatsop. This log was positioned in a East/West direction. They "respect(ed) that log as a momento of the old Fort Clatsop. And so they didn't take it up. They built along side of it" (Harlan Smith 1957) . The sketch map provided by Harlan Smith in 1957 shows the location of the log to be under an addition to the house. The map shows the log lying just north of the center portion of the house (under their kitchen) . Two additions were added to the house, one in 1872 and the other in 1875. One of these additions was built on top of the old log thought to be a portion of the original Fort Clatsop.
The Smith's mined clay from the area starting in 1877 or 1888. Later William Smith and James Steel, a Portland banker, formed the Portland Pottery Company, based in Portland. Clay mined in the Fort Clatsop area was loaded on barges at the Canoe Landing area to be taken to the pottery company in Portland. Bricks were made on site and marketed in Astoria. The Smith's lived in the house for eight years before moving to Portland in 1880. After the Smith family moved out, Joseph and Louisa Stevenson moved in. The Stevenson's had a land claim just up the Lewis and Clark River. There is a little discrepancy here since Stevenson supposedly rented the house starting sometime between 1876 and 1879, however the Smith's lived there until 1880. The Stevenson's were living there by July 19, 1882 when surveyors were in the area. They moved to Portland sometime between 1882 and 1889.
By 1890 the Smith house was unoccupied. In 1905 the house burned down.
A geodetic survey and section line surveys were first established in this area in 1856 by General Land Office Surveyors Joseph and John Trutch. They placed a post marking the location of the 1/4 Corner between Section 35 and 36 (a 1/4 Corner in a survey marker designating the half way point between Section Corners which are 1 mile apart) . When placing a survey marker it is customary to survey several other nearby objects, "witnesses", in order to help find the point later.
The next surveyor in the area was County Surveyor Gelo F. Parker. On July 19, 1882 he ref ound the old post marking the 1/4 Corner. They established two new witnesses, an 18" Spruce and the southeast corner of the Smith house ("Stevenson House") , which had been built since the last survey. The 18" Spruce was blazed and a "1/4 S" was inscribed on the blaze.
The next survey party to reestablish the 1/4 Corner was again Parker on November 6, 1905. The original stake marking the 1/4 Corner was gone. "The Stevenson house had burned down this year". There is no indication that the 18" Spruce was relocated. It is unclear what they utilized to reestablish the 1/4 Corner, but apparently they utilized incorrect references, since they were approximately 67 feet off of the proper 1856 location. This mistake was not uncovered until 1993. Subsequent surveys and 1/4 Corner reastablishments were based upon the marker improperly placed by Parker.
The 1/4 Corner posts long gone, in May 1993 County Surveyors lead by Robert Hovden reestablished the 1/4 Corner and placed a brass cap set in concrete. The error of 1905 was discovered when the survey did not figure properly and with the finding of the 1882 18" Spruce witness. The removal of the decaying outer portion of a 30" rotting stump clearly showed the "1/4 S" mark. New witnesses established by Hovden included the east and south corners of the fort exhibit. As a side benefit, they surveyed an old exposed brick near the start of the Canoe Landing Trail.
On May 18, 1994 David Ek performed a compass and tape survey from the south corner of the fort exhibit to the coordinates of the southeast corner of the Smith house (as surveyed by the 1882 survey) . A small wooded stake was placed in this spot. Utilizing photographs and a floor plan sketch by Harlan Smith, William and Ada's son, the rough outline of the house was superimposed over the present landscape. The old Smith house location is directly on top of the start of the Canoe Landing Trail, adjacent to the two large red alder trees on the edge of the grassy demonstration area (not the rifle demonstration area) . The position of the exposed brick surveyed in 1993 is nearby. This places the location of the old log, claimed by the Smiths to be a part of the original Fort Clatsop, underneath the present Canoe Landing Trail approximately 65 feet from the main gate to the fort exhibit. Besides the exposed brick shown on the 1993 surveyor's map, there are other exposed stones or bricks lying basically within the "gutter" of the existing Canoe Landing Trail. The row of stones appears to be a footing or a foundation.
During the 1957 interview, Harlan Smith believed the Smith house was in the same spot as the fort exhibit, when in fact they are approximately 65 feet apart. This error could be either faulty recollection or the fact that the 1/4 Corner monument was off by approximately 70 to 80 feet from 1905 to 1993.
Enclosed are a few sketches to better illustrate the position of these structures. Map number one through three show the existing conditions with different proposals as to the original location of the Smith's house. The outlineof the Smith's house is based upon the sketches provided by Harlan Smith. Utilizing the sketches and the descriptions, I based my maps on a twelve by twelve foot parlor.